TORONTO -- Some of the Blue Jays' biggest alumni names hit the links just outside of Toronto on Monday at the 22nd Annual Jays Care Golf Classic in support of the Jays Care Foundation.The event gave donors and sponsors an opportunity to meet and play alongside former Blue Jays greats
TORONTO -- Some of the Blue Jays' biggest alumni names hit the links just outside of Toronto on Monday at the 22nd Annual Jays Care Golf Classic in support of the Jays Care Foundation.
The event gave donors and sponsors an opportunity to meet and play alongside former Blue Jays greats while raising over $900,000 to benefit Jays Care. Over the past 10 years leading up to this summer's installment, the tournament alone had raised $5.83 million.
"Jays Care is working with the most marginalized kids across the country," said Robert Witchel, executive director of Jays Care. "Whether it's kids in the Challenger Baseball program or kids in Toronto Community Housing, what we're trying to do is level the playing field for all kids. Giving every kid the opportunity to reach their full potential and have a successful life. We're really excited to do that and really grateful for the support we get."
The money raised Monday by Jays Care is part of over $6.2 million that will be invested in 2017 to directly impact the lives of 65,000 young Canadians across all 10 provinces and the Yukon Territory.
Since being founded in 1992, the Jays Care Foundation has developed a wide variety of inclusive opportunities for youth that aim to create lasting social change through the sport of baseball. Jays Care is also engaged in numerous partnerships, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, Toronto Community Housing and Plan International Canada.
"To me, there's no greater cause," said former Blue Jays closer Duane Ward, who was part of Toronto's 1992 and '93 World Series teams. "As a player, you come here and your job is just to basically play baseball. Since I've been retired, being a part of the organization and being a part of what the Jays Care Foundation is all about, that's what you do. You go around and try to make it better for the kids coming up behind you."
For Ward and his fellow alumni, the annual tournament is also an opportunity to reunite with old teammates and, as he put it, "tell a bunch of lies about how good we were when we were younger." He was joined by the likes of Cito Gaston, Pat Hentgen, Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Kelly Gruber and many others.
"Anytime I have a chance to come back to Toronto, I don't hesitate," said former right fielder Jesse Barfield, who played in 1,032 games for the Blue Jays over parts of nine seasons. "This is my second home. My daughter was born here, my kids spent a ton of time here. This is a great cause. It's something that I'm a big part of, and I love it."
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.